23rd September 2011

Don’t Stop The Prayers

Samuel before Saul series (1 Samuel 7:2-9)

Do not stop crying out to the Lord our God for us
1 Samuel 7:8 (NIV UK)

Do you ever commit to prayer and then not do it?

It was a difficult time in the life of Samuel. From his youth he had instructed the Israelites in the way of God, but they only listened to him sporadically. If there was an important occasion, they would bring him out for the pomp and circumstance, but generally everyone did what was right in their own eyes.

Now the Israelites were afraid. They had rejected foreign gods, and had assembled as an act of worship to the true God. When the Philistines heard about the assembly, they decided it was a time to attack. When news of this reached the Israelites, they turned to Samuel and asked him to pray for them.

It would have been understandable had Samuel given up on the Israelites. Their track record was not good. But he didn’t. His committed himself to pray for them no matter what, and he was intent on honouring that commitment. The Bible tells us that he offered a whole burnt offering, meaning that he kept nothing back for himself to eat, which priests were allowed to do. He gave all to God for the sake of the people.

Maybe sometimes we offer to pray for others. Or someone asks us to pray and we agree. It can be an automatic response when someone is sick or in distress. “I’ll pray for you”, we promise, and then promptly forget. We’re human, after all. We forget. We get caught up in our own lives and forget the commitment we made to others.

What if the person to whom we promised prayer upsets us? Would we then refuse to pray?

Later on, not long before his death, Samuel told the Israelites, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23). He lived a life of prayer for them. He thought that it was a “sin” to break his commitment to pray for them. Sin seems a strong word. Is prayerful neglect a sin? In the New Testament James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4:17).

Follow Samuel’s example, and don’t stop the prayers.

Great God, help me to remember my commitment to pray for others. Let the Holy Spirit guide me to express my concern for them to you. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson

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